Monday, July 13, 2015

To Kill a Watchman

by S. L. Duncan

As I write this, the summer heat has fallen upon Alabama and cocked it up good and proper. Ain’t nothing working right. Temperatures are topping out in the upper nineties and the heat index is in the triple digits. Every day, the weatherman promises a twenty percent of something that’ll never come. I suspect all weathermen were once weatherboys that liked to poke at frogs and lizards with sharp sticks.

It’s the humidity, you see. It makes people weird.

These days nothing is weirder or more talked about than the imminent release of an actual book written by the actual Harper Lee. Y’all may not know this, but Alabama is a bit protective of its favorite author. Might be because they share so much in common. Both are capable of giving the world beauty, controversy, and most assuredly, both are probably just a little bit crazy as hell.

Over the years, the acclaimed author has lived a reclusive life. She’s kept to herself, managing to avoid TMZ, communicating only through her legal representation, ever since her sister (and former lawyer) Alice died. From the outside looking in, Lee has completely disengaged from the world at large. And yet, those that know her and see her and visit with her say she’s still just good ol’ Nelle, living her life in Monroeville like most other residents do – quietly, and unconcerned what the outsiders think. Most Birmingham and Montgomery reporters that have journeyed south and gathered enough courage to visit her front door did so at the risk of threats of arrest for trespassing.

Of course, being threatened by Harper Lee is a bit of a rite of passage for reporters around these parts.

That’s a story you could tell for years.

But here we are, in the sitting, wet heat of Alabama, and most of us are in a bit of a state of shock. In fact, I’ve not taken a poll, but I suspect that before the news broke, more people in this state would be less surprised to see Jesus Christ himself in a Barnes and Noble, than they would a second book by Harper Lee. But in a matter of hours, that’s exactly what is going to happen: A second coming.

The early reviews point to a very different world for Scout and Atticus Finch, and those that were fans of To Kill a Mockingbird are a bit troubled. Scout has grown up and become a woman not content with the expectations set upon her by the world, and Atticus it seems has become a racist.

This damn heat, y’all.

I’ll be honest. I’m not sure how or if things will change after the release of Go Set a Watchman. All this happens as I’m trying desperately to cross the finish line on time for the last book in my three book deal, a deadline which also happens to be the publication date of my second book. I find it amazing that Harper Lee, excuse me, Pulitzer Prize-winning Harper Lee, may be experiencing a lot of the same anxiety that I am. Will this sequel meet expectations? Will people want to read it? Will it make the first book better or worse?

We’ll both find out soon enough. In the meantime, I’ve got to finish my third book. Nelle is probably just drafting some early notes for her third release. We can expect publication sometime in the summer of 2068.

Should be a hot one.

S.L. Duncan is the author of THE REVELATION OF GABRIEL ADAM, available now (ebook for $.99 through July!), and the upcoming SALVATION OF GABRIEL ADAM, (August 2015, Medallion Press), available now for preorder. You can find him on twitter @SLDuncanBooks and occasionally blogging at


JeffO said...

You know, I would be careful about calling Watchman a sequel in the true sense of the word. I don't know how much it's changed since Ms. Lee originally tried to get it published in the way back when. I guess I'll have to read Mockingbird again, and the 'new' one, before deciding.

Cynthia said...

I just wrote about Harper Lee's new book on my blog too.

Since you're in Alabama, you must've heard that your governor declared today Go Set a Watchman day. I wonder what kind of activities would be planned for this?

RSMellette said...

I think it's funny to see how many people are surprised that Atticus turns out to be a racist. Any Southern of a certain age knows that racism is complicated and definitely has a generational factor.

brighton said...

Given the circumstances of it's creation in relation to To Kill A Mockingbird, Go Set A Watchman is not a sequel at all, it's more akin to an early draft of To Kill A Mockingbird, as it was rejected for publication and Harper Lee was advised to rework the story from Scout's perspective and to focus on the trial that happened year earlier and was mentioned in Go Set A Watchman, and out of all that Harper Lee ended up reworking the story and changing the POV and zeroing in on that trial back in the 30's and came out with the book we all know and love, To Kill A Mockingbird.
Go Set A Watchman is an interesting look into Harper Lee's process, and into how one of the great novels of the 20th century came into fruition, but it is certainly not a sequel in the traditional sense of the term, and doesn't stand up much on it's own given it's overall lack of plot.